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A Stepbrother for Christmas

By:Celia Aaron

A Stepbrother for Christmas



The Hard and Dirty Holidays



Celia Aaron




Chapter One



Annalise





I stomped around on the porch of the chalet. Snow clung to my boots and lay thick and deep on the surrounding slopes. The wind was bitter, slicing through my clothes and stinging my skin. I wasn’t dressed for the weather quite yet.

I’d just driven in from the airport. Mom had decided this Christmas would be best spent on the slopes of Aspen instead of in Dallas. I didn’t intend to come, especially since I had a lot of schoolwork over the Christmas break. This year, though, Mom wouldn’t take ‘no’ for an answer.

Once satisfied I wouldn’t leave a cold, wet trail through the rental, I opened the front door and dragged in my suitcase. Mom had gone to the trouble of setting up a Christmas tree, presents scattered at its base and overdone ornaments and ribbons choking whatever green was on its branches.

The chalet was homey, wooden beams and glass mixing to give an earthy and airy feel. The front windows gave a great view of the mountain and the town.

“Mom!” I called.

My stepfather, Brent, came around the corner and greeted me. “Annalise, my darling, how good to see you.” He gave me a warm hug, going on and on in his posh British accent about how much he’d missed me.

I’d always liked Brent. He’d married my mother five years prior. He was a great stepdad, caring and warm. He’d helped me make it through some tough times in high school and then again in college. He was handsome for his age and well respected in his professional community. My mom had definitely picked a good one – especially when compared with my absentee biological dad.

For all the good things Brent was, he only had one fault. It wasn’t a fault, really. He couldn’t help it. His son being a total dick wasn’t even Brent’s doing as far as I could tell. But Niles Tremaine, my stepbrother, was a total asshole. He’d tormented me ever since our parents got married. It was as if he blamed me for his mother’s death. He was always nasty to me, humiliating me in front of friends, dates, or anyone standing within a ten-foot radius. I never understood how the kindly Brent spawned such a demon.

The moment I heard Niles was going away to college in Oxford, England, I couldn’t be happier. I was able to spend my senior year of high school in peace. Then, thanks to a fortuitous series of events, I hadn’t crossed paths with him for the next two years. I still heard all about him, thanks to my mother bragging every chance she got about how he was a scholar at Oxford, on the rowing team, and on and on. I didn’t care what his grades were. He was an unrepentant asshole.

“Your mother has really outdone herself this year.” Brent waved his hand at the Christmas tree.

“I can see that.” I pulled my cap off, letting my dark hair fall freely down my back.

“Anna!” Mom rushed into the room, her usual ball of frenetic energy. Howie, her sheltie, was hot on her heels and barking with excitement. I leaned down to pet him and gave him a few “good boys” as he jumped around excitedly, his nails clicking on the hardwoods. He was getting older, but he was fluffy, fun, and operated under the mistaken belief he was still a small puppy.

When I stood, Mom gave me a full once over. Her eyes were a darker brown than mine, though her black hair was streaked with gray. Even so, she was still a looker. Tall and willowy with a dancer’s body. I was a little curvier, but had the height. Despite her grace, she hugged like a bear, and wasted no time crushing me in her embrace.

“Mom. Can’t. Breathe.”

She loosened up her grip and put her hand on my face. “You’re frozen! This isn’t Dallas.”

“Thanks for the pro tip.” I changed the subject before she got stuck on the subject of how I didn’t understand thermometers. “Tree looks great.”

Her eyes lit up. “You like it?”

“It’s beautiful.” I wondered if there was an actual tree up under all the garlands and bows.

“Well, Brent helped me quite a bit.”

He wrapped an arm around her waist. “I just climbed the ladder around one hundred times or so.”

She kissed him on the cheek. “Because you love me.”

“That I do.” His smile was lopsided and heartfelt.

I realized how much I missed them. School took all my time and I stayed away from the house whenever I heard Niles would be visiting.

Mom and Brent were a cute couple, the cutest really. But I didn’t need to be subjected to googoo eyes this early in the visit. I was spending two weeks with them. I tried to cut it to one because I was working on finishing my biology degree early so I could start med school. Mom guilted me into coming for the entire two weeks. She has a gift, that woman.

“I’m just going to go on upstairs.”

“I thought you were going to bring Gavin with you?” Brent asked.

Mom elbowed him hard in the ribs.

“Oh, oh too right. I forgot. My apologies, darling. Can I help you upstairs with your bag?” Brent’s faced turned an interesting shade of crimson in only seconds.

Gavin was my ex-boyfriend. I’d dated him for a few months before we ended things. He just wasn’t the one. I liked him, we had a lot in common, but there was no spark, no fire. It didn’t really bother me to talk about it, but talking about my love life – or its untimely death, I supposed – with my parents was not happening.

“Which room is mine?” I clunked the bag up the stairs.

“Second door on the left, next to Niles’.”

I stopped, my foot almost missing the stair entirely. “Niles is coming?”

“Oh, he’s already here. Went to town to get some supplies, he said,” Mom trilled.

I slammed my bag to the top of the stairs, unable to hide my irritation.

Merry Frickin’ Christmas.





Chapter Two



Niles





I swirled the coffee around, trying to cool it a bit before taking a sip. It had been a long trip over the pond, and even longer to get to Colorado. I was looking to relax for a few weeks, do some skiing, see my dad. I was almost finished with university, getting ready to seek a job in finance. I couldn’t decide if I wanted to come back to the States to be closer to my dad or stay in England where I’d made so many friends.

The coffeehouse traffic bustled around me, tourists streaming in and out for their coffee fix. The barista gave me a smile. She’d slipped me her number along with my coffee. She was certainly pretty enough, but I wasn’t here for a fling. I’d done enough of those at Oxford to last a lifetime. I smiled back at her before dropping my eyes. No point being rude.

The door opened with a jingling sound accompanied by a woman with a scarf, hat, and sunglasses. She was curvy and tall. I couldn’t quite see her face, but it had to be gorgeous like the rest of her. I straightened in my chair and ran a hand through my auburn locks, smoothing them down as best I could.

She shifted from one foot to the next as she waited to order. Her ass, a perfect plump orb, moved in her jeans. She had a small waist and her tits were high and large. My cock hardened in my pants as any number of inappropriate thoughts rushed through my mind. I licked my lips as heat rose along my skin.

She ordered her drink, a dizzying combination of flavors that I couldn’t follow, and turned toward the area where I sat. When she saw me she stiffened and reached for her sunglasses. She pulled them off and gave me a look that could melt lead.

Bloody hell. “Annalise?”

“Niles.” She moved away toward the bar area. To the barista, she said, “I need that in a to go cup, please. As soon as possible.”

Clearly, she’d wanted to sit in the shop for a while, but my mere presence was about to drive her back out into the cold again. I couldn’t blame her. I’d been a total wanker to her the entire time I’d lived with her and her mom in Dallas. I was in a bad head space at that time in my life. My mom had died two years before. I couldn’t forgive my father for remarrying. I took it out on Annalise. I knew that now. I’d thought so many times about how I might try to apologize, to make it up to her. But we were strangers now, more or less, and I didn’t want to reopen old wounds.

By the way she cringed away from me in the coffee shop, it appeared the wounds had never fully closed. And going three years without an apology from me? I was the biggest tosser this side of the Atlantic.

I stood and took a step toward her. She leaned away even though I was several meters from her. This was going to be slow going. Getting closer to her was clearly not an option. I resume my seat. She eyed me like I was a particularly loathsome rodent. I rubbed my hand over my jaw, desperately trying to figure out how to rectify a five-year mistake in five minutes over coffee.

When her order was up she thanked the pretty barista and took her drink. She gave me one more acidic glance and headed toward the door.

“Annalise,” I called.

She stopped.

“Please, I just want to talk is all.” I tried to give her my most winning smile.

She grimaced.

Fail.

The barista watched the scene with interest. She perked up at my accent. All the American women did. Except Annalise.

She seemed caught in a fight or flight instinct. Was I really that bad?

One look in her eyes told me yes, I really was.

“Please?” I dropped the smile and just tried to straight up grovel.

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